Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens/Photo by Chris Rief

Welcome to the National Capital Region

If you are looking to get your national parks passport stamped, Washington, D.C. and its surrounding areas should be your first stop! Beyond the stamps, this part of the country offers so much to see and experience. Whether you live in the greater D.C. area or are just planning a visit, where should you start your parks adventure?

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site/Photo by Chris Rief

The area offers an endless variety of sites and activities, depending on your interests. With acres of land for historic sites, fields for recreation, monuments to soak in, archaeological features, and forests to explore, you can easily get your fill here.

I have found so many special places within parks close to home, and have had so many wonderful moments exploring with my daughter. Here are my top five local places, in no particular order:

  • Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens (KEAQ) captured my heart on my first visit, and not just because of the countless ponds of lotus flowers and water lilies visitors can enjoy during late spring and early summer. The landscape and wildlife make this park beyond special all year long. 
  • Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (FRDO), also known as Cedar Hill, was the D.C. home of Frederick Douglass. This historical location gives insight into this courageous and incredible person who changed our world.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (MLKM) is the perfect place to reflect and admire the legacy of a man who fought for equality and freedom. It also offers stunning views of the Tidal Basin.
  • Rock Creek Park (ROCR) is massive, and I always seem to find something new here. If you’re looking for a great place to hike, the multitude of trails in this park can lead you to so many places—even to Maryland!
  • Lincoln Memorial (LINC) is fun at all times of the year, and at all times of day—you never know what you’ll see here! So many incredible moments in history have taken place on the memorial steps, and it’s also a great location to soak in some incredible views.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial/Photo by Chris Rief

Side note: the National Park Service uses four-letter codes (included after each park name above) to identify park units. You may find it helpful to use the codes when researching park units and planning your adventures.

Rock Creek Park/Photo by Chris Rief

Washington, D.C. offers a unique opportunity to step back and reflect on the history of this country while also witnessing history unfolding in front of you. Planning ahead can help make your park visit even better, as parks in this area often host special events or have limited hours. I hope you enjoy your public lands in the National Capital Region.

Lincoln Memorial/Photo by Chris Rief

Header photo: Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens/Photo by Chris Rief

Chris Rief is a non-profit professional with a deep passion for photography and public lands. He lives in the D.C. area, where you can find him exploring national park units near and far with his daughter, Quinn.


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